Sometimes there is a negative stigma attached to the title of “safety leader”. They feel like their safety leadership is constantly waiting for someone to make a mistake and call them out on it. Nobody wants to be the “bad guy” when safety procedures aren’t properly followed. And yet, safety is the most essential practice to benefit workers. A great safety leader’s approach can make all the difference between the negative stigma or helping everyone feel like they’re on the same safety team together. In fact, research shows that positive safety leadership boosts employee safety practices by up to 86%. Here are 7 tips to be an effective safety leader.

1. Take a People-First Approach to Safety Leadership

A people-first approach to effective safety leadership starts with getting to know frontline workers personally and caring about them. Instead of just telling them what to do, invite them to provide feedback. Ask them about their experiences and listen. Your frontline workers have valuable insight and experience that often goes under appreciated, so when you take the time to listen, they feel more invested in safety efforts. If they feel you value and trust them, they feel more personal ownership for keeping safety procedures and even looking for more ways to improve safety.

2. Set the Standard in Person

Supervisors should always show, rather than just tell their workers how to follow through on safety procedures. Workers will trust your leadership more if you walk the walk. For example, a great safety leader models proper PPE wearing and other safety protocols personally. Modeling behavior sets the standard so workers have a good example to follow. They’ll trust that you care about their safety and will be invested in whatever changes are necessary to enact safety protocols.

3. Accountability at All Levels

Accountability = credibility for any effective leader. Everyone at the company, including supervisors and executives, as well as frontline workers, should be held accountable whenever safety is compromised. When safety leadership follows through on accountability, frontline workers will trust and respect the safety leader. Workers will see that you care about risks they face and understand that leaders care enough to hold themselves to the same standards. When leaders follow through on accountability, frontline workers also feel more comfortable communicating their concerns and proposing safety actions themselves, which creates more collaboration.

4. Clear Communication is Key

Speaking of communication and its role, one of the most common reasons that behavior change involving safety protocols isn’t followed correctly is just because the changes and expectations are not clearly communicated. Frontline workers are much more likely to adopt new and improved safety measures if they understand exactly what they need to do and why it’s important to their safety. All of that comes down to clear communication and demonstration.

Don’t just assume and imply, or the needed safety behaviors won’t stick, which can put workers in danger. An effective safety leader will be out in front, showing, demonstrating and communicating about safety measures clearly every day. Keep in mind that communication is also a two-way street. Safety leaders must listen to their frontline workers’ concerns, questions and worries and become a trusted liaison between them and upper management. If they know you care, and that their safety really is your top concern, that trust and communication will get stronger and they will take your guidelines for improvement seriously.

5. Recognize Outstanding Safety Performance

Frontline workers who show outstanding safety performance need to be recognized openly and often. One way that a safety leader can flip the paradigm of the “bad safety cop” is to turn into the “good safety cheerleader”. While it’s always important to watch out for and remove safety hazards, if you also try to “catch people doing it right,” you’ll provide them with positive validation and recognition. This kickstarts a positive feedback loop that will energize workers to continue to improve in their safety efforts.

6. Advocate for Workers

An effective safety leader shows workers that they are here for them, advocating to keep them safe while on the job. By recognizing that human error is the main cause behind accidents, safety leaders can look for and get feedback from workers on ways to help reduce those common errors. Mental and physical fatigue are two of the most common causes for human error, so making sure workers get consistent breaks and double checking on their wellbeing to keep them from getting exhausted will go a long way to improving safety holistically. It will also improve communication and personal connections with frontline workers.

7. Adopt Digital Safety Tools

Technological solutions like Anvl’s software can also give safety leaders broad and deep insight that can help them better identify and eliminate hazards and protect workers. Quick feedback and analysis from Anvl’s mobile workforce safety application and communication platform engages frontline workers as safety leaders in their own right, putting everyone on the same team. See Anvl in action here, and contact one of our experts today.

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